Afloat at the turn of the year
Ask the Captain where he’d prefer to be – and the guaranteed response will be “On my boat…!” Late November sunshine in California boosts the mood; glimpses of the storm-ravaged coastline in West Wales in December stir the soul; celebratory Christmas music, food and decor provide joy and cheer – but the time comes when the Captain yearns to pick up a boat rope, to start Cleddau’s engine – and to get moving on a little cruise…
There’d been certain provisos about a 2015 /16 New Year afloat:
Weather (remember late December 2014, when boats were ice-bound at their moorings?)
Health (one crew member’s irritating cough can be an irritant to crew and passengers too…)
Boat readiness (before usage the boat needs a water tank refill, a thorough warming through and repositioning of poles and life rings from boat interior to boat exterior – and in late December some festive decoration too).
It was the weather that caused the greatest concern this year – not a frozen canal, but Storm Frank’s strong winds and heavy squalls of rain foiled departure plans for Wednesday. “Delay arrival,” went the call to the Tentatrice crew. “We’ll do an early start on Thursday and cruise from Poynton to Bugsworth in one go.”
New Year’s Eve dawned oh so slowly. Alarm clocks rang at 7am. The boat was ready to untie by 0745. In the gloom the Captain detached the fenders, untied the mooring ropes and pushed off. Sharp and mischievous winds interfered with the procedure: three attempts it took to squeeze out, to bear left down the canal to the winding hole so as to turn and head north…
The low winter sun cast glows and shadows on trees and water. Cloudless blue skies, skeletal trees and familiar structures provided sheer visual delight. The cruise involved four miles northbound on the Macclesfield Canal, then, at Marple, a right hand turn onto the Peak Forest Canal, heading six miles south east to Bugsworth Basins in Derbyshire.
In clear winter light there were fine views of the Peak District hills running the other side of the Goyt Valley
“The Upper Basin’s pretty full,” said a volunteer from the Heritage Trust, “but you can get in there…” and he indicated spaces in the Lower Basin. Relief! Relief to have found a mooring at such a popular spot. Relief to have arrived and moored up before the promised rain.
A quick walk around before darkness fell revealed two boats (nb Elizabeth was one) tucked into the Middle Basin Arm
while several boats in the Middle Basin were being decorated with Christmas lights. In the Upper Basin Gardner Engine aficionados were congregating while down along the Middle and Lower Basins other boats continued to arrive during the afternoon.
New Year’s Day was grey but dry. (“It’s dry, let’s cruise back before the rain…”). Boats jostled to leave their moorings and a convoy of four started on the six miles back along the Peak Forest Canal. At the head of the convoy chugged Elizabeth, her three foot draught causing her to ground occasionally in shallower spots.
At Marple it was straight ahead and down the locks towards Manchester for two of the convoy, while for Cleddau there was that sharp left turn and a further four miles along the Macc back to Poynton. The cold wind chilled the bone, though somehow the soul was warmed when passing this array of canal-side collectibles at Bridge 13.
Now after seeing in the New Year away from home, Cleddau is comfortably tied up again on her own pontoon – where the greatest excitement the next morning was the escapee brolly boat, followed later by a fire engine attending a boat chimney fire…
Will there be boating excitements of a different sort in the forthcoming months…? Time to go home and do some planning…
Happy New Year, everyone.